Archive | Reliability


7:30 pm
July 20, 2017
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White Paper | Digitizing Vibration-Based Condition Monitoring

1707wp_proftechnikThis white paper provides a workforce perspective on automating the process of acquiring vibration data on rotating equipment, along with engineering practices and a case study on condition monitoring with wind turbines — fastest growing profession in the U.S. is a wind turbine technician.

The white paper comes from German-based PRUFTECHNIK Inc. and here’s an excerpt of the white paper:

In this white paper we are exploring how these new technologies will empower technicians and engineers to efficiently and accurately predict and analyze wear and damages in rotating equipment and how these new technologies are boosting the effectiveness of the vibration analyst. The result is an accrued efficiency of industrial production units, marine vessels and offshore units, rendering them safer, less polluting and more profitable.

If the skill of vibration analysts could be used mainly to analyze problems rather than going through huge amounts of data or walking through the factory to collect data, then this would decuple the efficiency of the analyst and – along the way – remove the often boring part of the job. Automating the data acquisition, generating exception reports, recognizing aberrant conditions and even identifying or eliminating plausible causes for an aberrant vibration signal will certainly point the analyst in the right direction.

Download the White Paper Here >>


7:14 pm
July 12, 2017
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What’s Your Noisy Pump Really Saying?

Centrifugal pump and motor in power plantBy Eugene Vogel, Electrical Apparatus Service Association (EASA)

Everybody likes a quiet pump–it just does its job, leaves you alone, and doesn’t break down often. But a noisy pump raises concern. Although the noise is often attributed to cavitation, not every noisy pump is suffering from this problem. Failing bearings, flow turbulence, recirculation, and even a machine’s mechanical or electrical geometry can generate noise, any of which may be a more immediate problem than long-term damage from cavitation.

Cavitation erodes the suction eye of the impeller without affecting its other surfaces. Disassembly and inspection will confirm if significant cavitation is responsible for pump noise, but the first step is to rule out other potential causes with non-intrusive tests.

Rule out bearing noise.

To determine if the noise may be due to failing bearings, listen on the pump volute and bearing housing. An ultrasonic listening device is helpful, but a mechanic’s stethoscope will do. If the sound is louder on the volute than on the bearing housing, bearing noise can be eliminated as a source.

randmChange suction pressure.

Next, increase the suction pressure (head) if possible and listen for a decrease in the noise. If suction head can’t be increased, reduce it and listen for an increase in noise. Cavitation is directly related to suction head and flow, so changing either of these should cause cavitation noise to change accordingly.

Check for recirculation.

If suction head changes have little effect on the noise, the source may be recirculation resulting from a discharge flow restriction, perhaps due to a blockage or closed discharge valve. For closed systems without flow-rate instrumentation, verifying flow may not be easy. A portable flow meter attached to the outside of piping will provide accurate data, but such instruments can be expensive.

Another approach is to open a drain valve in the discharge line near the pump and allow flow to exit the system. If this reduces the noise at the pump, the flow through the system is very likely restricted, and recirculation is the source of the noise. Recirculation can damage pump impellers and volutes and subjects the pump to unnecessary vibration. Of course it’s also a waste of the energy consumed by the pump.

Determine if the noise is related to mechanical and electrical geometry.

If changes to neither the suction head nor discharge flow alter the noise characteristics of the pump, the sound is probably mechanical in nature. Mechanical sounds occur at specific frequencies related to the machine’s mechanical and electrical geometry. Vibration-analysis techniques can identify and characterize these sounds and their relationship to any mechanical forces.

The most common frequency of sound and vibration in centrifugal pumps is vane-pass frequency, which occurs at the multiple of the number of impeller vanes and the rotating speed. Technicians familiar with pumping machinery may well be able to audibly separate the vane pass and other mechanical sounds from the random noise of cavitation and recirculation.

In other words

Your noisy pump may be telling you something important. With a methodical approach and through the process of elimination, you can translate its language and avoid pump failure. MT

Eugene Vogel is a pump and vibration specialist at the Electrical Apparatus Service Association Inc. (EASA), St. Louis. EASA is an international trade association of more than 1,900 electromechanical sales and service firms in 62 countries that helps members keep up to date on materials, equipment, and state-of-the-art technology. For more information, visit


7:09 pm
July 12, 2017
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SAP Tips and Tricks: Understand Shift Factors And Tolerances

randmBy Kristina Gordon, DuPont

My recent article, “Maintenance Plans: What do all the fields mean?”, generated two very good questions from reader Nigel Wilson, who wants to further understand how a maintenance plan functions. Here are answers to those questions.

Q: What is the relationship (if any) between shift factors and tolerances? Are they used in conjunction with each other or separately?

A:  Shift factors and tolerances can be used in conjunction with each other or they can be used separately. The screen shots illustrate how this is accomplished.

Tolerance defines late or early completion time period and the impact it has on the plan schedule: (+) tolerance is set for late completions and (-) tolerance is set for early completions.

The shift factor is the percentage of shift that a plan can move if not completed on time. For example, if a maintenance plan is due Sept. 1, but the work is not confirmed until Sept. 5, the shift factor will determine the next plan due date. A100% shift on a monthly plan will move the due date to the exact day in the next month that the work was confirmed in September (in this case, Oct. 5). A 0% shift will not allow the plan to move the due date. The order was completed Sept. 5, but the due date is on the first of every month, therefore, the next due date will be Oct. 1.



To use the shift factor and tolerance together, the principals are still the same. However, you are now taking the percentage of the shift factor into account with the completion from the tolerance. The images above illustrate how the plan change date changes with a 100% shift factor and doesn’t change with a 0% shift factor.

Q: How do shift factors and tolerances handle multiple cycles on a maintenance plan?

A:   Tolerances and shift factors react the same in single-cycle and strategy plans. Settings should be set at the strategy level, then they will carry over to each individual maintenance plan when it is created. To avoid this situation, you may also want to maintain hierarchies in the maintenance strategy against each pack, if you haven’t already done so. MT

Kristina Gordon is SAP PM Leader, DuPont Protective Solutions Business and SAP WMP Champion, Spruance Site, Richmond, VA. If you have SAP questions, send them to and we’ll forward them to Kristina.


7:05 pm
July 12, 2017
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Store Your Bearings Properly

Metal bearings with random rotation and scale.Bearings are a critical part of the design and function of most mechanical equipment. Sadly, due to improper selection, storage, and installation, the majority of these components never reach their intended design life. Consequences for a plant from these situations can include compromised equipment operation, lost capacity, and increased costs.

A recent post on the Ludeca (, Doral, FL) blog urged readers not to condemn their equipment to death through improper bearing storage. The author, Trent Phillips, CRL, CMRP, offered a number of best-practice must-dos and don’ts to help facilities ensure bearing reliability.

— Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

Bearing storage must-dos

Do store bearings in a clean, dry, low-humidity environment. Moisture from the environment, work gloves, and other sources can result in corrosion and/or etched sections that create fatigue on a bearing. Avoid storage near direct sunlight, air conditioners, or vents.

• Do eliminate the possibility of shock/vibration during handling and storage.

• Do store bearings on pallets or shelves in areas that aren’t subjected to high humidity or sudden or severe environmental changes.

• Do store bearings flat and never stack them. Lubrication and anti-corrosion material could squeeze out of stacked bearings.

• Do (always) lay bearings on clean, dry paper when handling.

• Do keep bearings away from sources of magnetism.

randmBearing storage don’ts

• Don’t store bearings on the floor. Doing so will introduce contamination, moisture, and vibration/shock.

• Don’t remove bearings from cartons/crates or protective wrappings until just prior to installation in a machine. The exception may be bearings in wooden crates, as they could attract moisture.

• Don’t clean bearings with cotton or similar materials that can leave dust and/or contamination behind. Use lint-free materials.

• Don’t handle bearings with dirty, oily, or moist hands.

• Don’t nick or scratch bearing surfaces.

• Don’t remove any lubrication from a new bearing. Lubricants in stored bearings will deteriorate over time. The bearing manufacturer should specify shelf-life limits. These dates should be noted on the packaging and monitored to help ensure bearings are fit for use when needed. MT

Visual Inspections

Proper storage techniques are just part of the reliability picture when it comes to bearings. According to Trent Phillips, the following visual inspections of bearing integrity should be completed periodically on stored bearings, and just prior to putting them into service:

Examine packaging for indications that the bearing could have been damaged during shipment or storage. The item should be discarded or returned to the supplier if signs of damage are found.

Examine the grease or oil for evidence of hardening, caking, discoloration, separation, and other problems. Re-lubrication for continued storage or replacement maybe required.

Trent Phillips, CRL, CMRP, is global reliability leader with Atlanta-based Novelis ( To read more of his insight on Ludeca’s website (, including Part 1 of the two-part post “Has Your Equipment Been Condemned to Death?” on which this Reliability + Maintenance Center page is based, go to


6:57 pm
July 12, 2017
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Adhere to a ‘Best Practices’ Cyber Framework

Security concept: Lock on digital screen, contrast, 3d renderIn 2013, the United States’ National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST, Gaithersburg, MD, was tasked with developing a framework that would become an authoritative source for cybersecurity best practices. Other countries have similar standards or are actively working on versions. In some places, such as France, these standards carry the weight of law.

According to Andrew Kling, director of Cybersecurity and Software Practices for Schneider Electric (, Andover, MA), the standards that emerged from the NIST framework established an ordered, structured approach to addressing cybersecurity challenges and helped translate vague, fear-based concerns into commonsense risk analysis, risk-tolerance assessment, and risk avoidance.

“Confronting the cybersecurity challenge as part of a focused risk-management program,” Kling noted, “allows an organization to take on one of the biggest threats to its ability to deliver shareholder value. For plants to operate profitably, they must protect the reliability of their assets and operations. Cybersecurity attacks threaten their reliability, which in turn jeopardizes their ability to turn a profit.”

randmHe explained that, while the set of core cybersecurity practices necessary to manage cyberthreats are well known, there are still barriers to adoption. For the most part, these obstacles are related to an improper understanding of the risks at hand, as well as to an organization’s ability to resist them.

Consequently, despite regulatory and risk-management incentives, Kling said finding companies that effectively address cybersecurity is rare. To his way of thinking, it’s time to change the conversation away from the fear of a cyber attack to something understood in all boardrooms: How do cyber attacks threaten the reliability of plant assets and operations and their ability to contribute to the bottom line.

This requires managers to know and understand their plants’ cybersecurity positions and appetites for risk tolerance. This information helps them recognize the difference between where they are managing cyber risks and how much gap there is to close. Here’s where a strategy to improve an operation’s cybersecurity readiness through comprehensive security-risk management pays off.

Crucial steps

What’s an operation to do? Andrew Kling points to these specifics:

• Discuss and understand your risk-management plan and objectives (which usually means protecting your ability to produce).

• Locate responsibility for risk management in your organization so that decision making, execution, and incident response are efficient and successful. Assess your risk-management workflows.

• Ascertain the value of your manufacturing processes and assets to your organization and potential attackers. Basically, you need to calculate your security risk. For example: If the plant were to go down for a day due to a cyber attack, loss of production would equal $X.

• Model the cyber-threat landscape. Analyze threats specific to your industry and your plant. Remember that threats are constantly evolving as new skills, techniques, and tools emerge. You might need expert help.

• Determine where security-risk-management functions should integrate into your organization’s infrastructure. These functions can take many forms, i.e., risk avoidance, mitigation, acceptance, and/or transference.

• Construct a cybersecurity plan that lets the organization respond to an evolving threat landscape. Analyze options to the plan and rank the effectiveness of its elements in reducing risks.

• Prioritize and execute the plan to manage your organization’s cyber risks.

• Keep in mind that program elements, such as bug patching and threat monitoring, are continuous. A cybersecurity risk-management plan isn’t a single event, but a continuous operation.

In short, have a plan, execute it, measure its effectiveness, and, if necessary, adjust it. Taking these simple steps to manage your cybersecurity risks can have a significant impact (in a good way) on your bottom line. MT

—Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

For more information, visit and


6:52 pm
July 12, 2017
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On The Floor: Continuing Storms Ahead for Industry

Stormy landscape background with street

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

This month’s MT Reader Panel question was sparked by Bob Williamson’s June 2017 “Uptime” column. In it, he recounted asking an audience of approximately 90 maintenance pros at an Oklahoma Predictive Maintenance User’s Group event to list the top three maintenance challenges they expected to see in the next three, to five, to 10 years. They came up with 117 challenges, which Bob discussed in detail. We wondered if our Panelists shared similar concerns. For purposes of this unscientific survey, we asked them to discuss a single “top” challenge—the most critical one in their respective views.

Q: From their perspectives as end users, consultants, or suppliers, what was the top maintenance challenge they would expect to continue nagging sites or emerge as another fact of life in industrial operations in the near future (over the next decade)?

The answers we received point to several storms rolling across the industrial landscape. Here, edited for brevity and clarity, are some of our Panelists’ thoughts.

Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities, Midwest…

More testing is now tied to computers and maintenance departments use them to not only operate equipment, but to track maintenance and repairs. That means the average maintenance employee will need classroom training and hands-on experience in these technologies. On a related note, years ago, new equipment came with a user’s manual of about 20 to 50 pages. These manuals are now complete books, with as many as 500 pages (including 100 pages just on troubleshooting). Going forward, industrial maintenance or operations personnel will probably require at least a two-year associates degree. Those who used to be able to learn on the job may be left behind.

CBM Specialist, Power Generation, South…

The biggest challenge I see coming for maintenance and reliability across all industries is impending inexperience within the craft. It takes about three years for a reliability technician to become proficient in collecting good data, downloading it, analyzing it, and making good, solid recommendations. I don’t see any movement by upper management to begin incipient training in the reliability field or leverage valuable training from experienced reliability technicians that will retiring from industry within the next decade (and taking their knowledge and skills with them). This is my personal experience, knowledge, and general observation of the industry.

College Electrical Lab Manager/Instructor/Consultant, West…

Companies can’t find skilled technicians that have the values and ethics to stick to maintenance functions. Many techs don’t seem to want to learn continuously and tend to jump from one employer to another for a few dollars more.

Many colleges teach theory with little hands-on training and trouble- shooting skills. I’m 72 years old and still working. I’m educated, skilled, have degrees, licenses, all that stuff you earn after 50 years in the field. The people entering the maintenance field today want to solve everything with a computer and not get dirty.

Maintenance Leader, Discrete Mfg, Midwest…

This is a pretty easy question to answer, using another question: How do we replace our aging tradesmen and tradeswomen? At our facility, the average age of our trades force is in the mid-fifties. Within the next five to seven years, close to two thirds of our workforce could retire. Given the lack of young people interested in skilled trades over the last two decades, we really are in a bad situation. Having to hire a retired tradesman who is in his early sixties to fill a position goes to show you how much trouble we’re in.

Maintenance Manager, Food Processing, South…

To sum up the top challenge that will be affecting industry for years to come, we’ve basically lost at least two generations of maintenance technicians. Those that we (our operations) get now are what I call “gamers.” They’ve done nothing but play video games.

When I “signed up” for maintenance, everyone knew weekend work was part of it. Most newer maintenance workers seem to be against working weekends, the time maintenance really has to do their PMs and project work.

Our turnover is very high, which has really taken a toll on experience in my department. Having lost most of the senior techs, we are finding that the younger generation takes no ownership of equipment or shows much dedication. They will call in [take off work] regardless of our plans, knowing we’ll be in a jam. What’s worse, they’ll show no concern [for putting us in a jam] when they return.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve been anywhere from 10 and 12 to 20+ short in maintenance (from a 67-person total staffing). This leaves us with 20% to 30% of our workforce open, which creates a backlog of work that just keeps getting bigger, with no end in sight. About 50% of my current maintenance staff has less than three years seniority, and 75% of these have about a year to year and a half. We are challenged to say the least.

Industry Consultant, International…

Any and/or all of the points Bob Williamson discussed are of concern. As a consultant, I would say one challenge that has developed over the years involves almost all of them.

Senior management used to plan budgets with maintenance managers, plant engineers, maintenance superintendents, and others, on at least an annual-budget basis, with five-year plans furnished as estimates. These days, senior management frequently is tied to quarterly bottom-line results that tend to push quarterly financial results as a high priority.

The overall result is that maintenance asset management is often short-changed for the short-term goal of maximizing the quarterly bottom line. While this is basically a corporate management problem, it continues to interfere with good asset-management practices. MT


6:37 pm
July 12, 2017
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CMMS Energizes Glass Company’s Maintenance Efforts

A three-step process helped a global glass manufacturer implement a CMMS in all of its facilities, resulting in notable asset-reliability gains.

An enterprise-wide CMMS implementation can result in significant gains in asset reliability.

An enterprise-wide CMMS implementation can result in significant gains in asset reliability.

A leading manufacturer of glass and glazing systems supplies glass for architectural, automotive, and technical applications to customers around the world. Operating in 28 countries, its business is divided into four regions: North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. Over time, the company sought to put increased emphasis on global maintenance excellence and the ability to standardize and benchmark metrics in all of its locations. Subsequently, the team of functional experts that focuses on automotive-glass production—which includes the company’s North American manager of Excellence in Maintenance—identified the need for a computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) system.

In early 2015, the company’s existing state of maintenance data was chaotic. While there was scattered use of existing software, plenty of valuable information was locked up in spreadsheets. The appointed functional team of experts searched for a CMMS solution with all the functions of the existing software, as well as a web-based solution with SAP interfacing capability, online training, live-chat support, and automatic updates. Company managers then defined requirements for the desired CMMS, starting with the fact it should be a software-as-a-service (SaaS) maintenance solution that offered access to real-time information, customizable asset hierarchies, and the ability to track equipment-performance trends and costs to maintain the assets.

The list of requirements also specified functionality in managing work orders and work requests, preventive maintenance, purchasing and inventory control, planning and scheduling, asset history, cost tracking, condition monitoring, document storage, and reporting. They determined that the solution offered by eMaint (, Marlton, NJ) was a good fit.

Multi-site implementations of anything can be challenging. In the case of its CMMS efforts, this manufacturer achieved notable success based on a methodical approach. It established goals and vision for the solution, built an asset hierarchy for greater control of equipment, and standardized processes across the entire corporation.

Steps to success

1. Establish goals and vision. The team began by mapping operations with the greatest needs, and prioritized implementation to locations with failing systems. The North American manager of Excellence in Maintenance stated that the key to quick implementation was understanding what a CMMS can do, establishing goals, and securing positive buy-in from management.

A formal project plan with milestones and goals was established. Formalizing the plan saved time and reduced costs along the way. By setting clear objectives to take advantage of the full potential of a CMMS, the company:

incorporated a defining phase to develop all pertinent data standards, ensuring consistent data collection

leveraged the knowledge of an experienced CMMS implementer for guidance

built a defined initial-implementation timeline to track progress and next steps.

Developing goals and a vision for how maintenance teams will function alongside a fully implemented CMMS is crucial. It is also important to document and communicate goals for the role of maintenance personnel in facilitating organizational success, the company’s approach to maintenance, and how a CMMS will support business processes. As it turned out, upfront planning enabled the company to be up and running in 30 days.

Asset hierarchies allow organizations to easily identify key assets on which to focus reliability and maintenance efforts.

Asset hierarchies allow organizations to easily identify key assets on which to focus reliability and maintenance efforts.

2. Build an asset hierarchy. Nine plants across the company’s North American operations were targeted to use the CMMS. About 10,000 assets were structured within an asset hierarchy, ranked according to their criticality, from the highest level to subordinate parts. Establishing asset hierarchies (as illustrated in Step 2 chart) allows organizations to easily identify key assets on which to focus maintenance and reliability efforts versus all tangible pieces, parts, equipment, and rooms.

3. Standardize across all locations. After using a financial model to establish their hierarchical structure, the company set up a template to standardize across all locations to effectively look at performance and analyze key metrics, including uptime and downtime. Completion rates for preventive maintenance are a leading metric the company can use because of the potential impact on operations. If a piece of critical equipment fails, it can shut down the entire plant, and have a negative impact on promises of quality and on-time delivery.

Analysis of metrics recorded and tracked through reports and dashboards within a CMMS opens ever-wider windows to critical business insights.

Analysis of metrics recorded and tracked through reports and dashboards within a CMMS opens ever-wider windows to critical business insights.


Prior to leveraging a standardized CMMS across its operations, many of the manufacturer’s maintenance decisions were based on tribal knowledge. Today, metrics are recorded and tracked daily on reports and dashboards within the CMMS. These tools allow users to convert CMMS data into business insights by analyzing historical costs and trends.

The manufacturer’s team developed a metrics center tab on the CMMS dashboard to provide live data on key performance indicators (KPIs) such as preventive-maintenance (PM) completion rates per production-line asset. The company’s engineers use these dashboards as a home base to see everything they need, including, among other things, 24/7 activity, downtime, and open work orders.

At the beginning of each month, the CMMS system is used to report on maintenance operational metrics, including PM completion rates and technical downtime performance at each plant. These reports show how each plant stacks up against the rest, based on critical performance benchmarks; motivate employees to focus on key metrics; and increase efficiency across the board. With this level of access and organization, the company sustains a 95% preventive-maintenance completion rate.

The manufacturer also uses CMMS to support capital planning. For example, if the company is “hurting” in a certain area on a piece of equipment that’s increasingly costly to maintain, it uses data to compare repair and replacement costs. The CMMS also supports short- and long-term investment decisions.

Before its global CMMS implementation, stakeholders couldn’t track key metrics or gain insight into equipment status. As a result of the enterprise-wide CMMS implementation, the company now tracks and analyzes key metrics, standardizes performance and, ultimately, supports its emphasis on global excellence in maintenance. MT

For more information, visit eMaint, a Fluke company, Marlton, NJ,


4:54 pm
July 12, 2017
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Move from Time- to Condition-Based Lubrication

Increasingly sophisticated machines and operations require more than legacy PM approaches.

With plant equipment and processes growing more sophisticated and demanding by the day, so must everything that keeps them up and running, including approaches to machinery lubrication. Integrated, proactive-maintenance technologies and strategies are key for fast-paced industrial operations that want to be competitive, and are easily justified in economic terms.

With plant equipment and processes growing more sophisticated and demanding by the day, so must everything that keeps them up and running, including approaches to machinery lubrication. Integrated, proactive-maintenance technologies and strategies are key for fast-paced industrial operations that want to be competitive, and are easily justified in economic terms.

By Ken Bannister, MEch Eng (UK), CMRP, MLE, Contributing Editor

The term “time-based maintenance” is well understood in industrial operations. The premise is simple. A regular maintenance/lubrication event is scheduled on the basis of a calendar anniversary, i.e., weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, or other interval, or on a machine’s run-time clock, i.e., 100, 250, 1,000 hr., or some other specified number of hours. Foundational to legacy preventive-maintenance (PM) programs, this type of event scheduling has served industry well for decades.

Plant equipment systems and processes, however, are becoming more complex and demanding by the day. In turn, they are requiring increasingly sophisticated maintenance approaches. Going forward, if they haven’t already done so, sites will need to adapt to an integrated, proactive-maintenance approach that maximizes machine availability and reliability. The economic justification is simple.

In a legacy time-based event, a forced machine downtime is usually scheduled to perform maintenance or lubrication, e.g., oil change. Older equipment designs usually dictate that a machine must be shut down and locked out to determine its status and conduct scheduled activities in a safe manner. This method obviously has an impact on an operation’s throughput capability.

Given today’s fast-paced operating environments, a forced two-hour downtime to change oil on a calendar schedule—whether it needs to be changed or not—is no longer acceptable. We still need to change oil, but we need to treat that oil as we would any asset and maintain it over an extended lifecycle. That means changing it only when conditions warrant change. This type of monitoring strategy reduces machine intervention and increases production throughput, as well as reduces costs related to the purchasing, handling, and disposal of lubricants at a site. It also fits perfectly in any corporate asset lifecycle or sustainability initiative.

Moving from a time-based to a condition-based lubrication program is an ideal change-management vehicle for transforming and improving an operation’s state of lubrication. Successful design and implementation of a condition-based lubrication program can manifest itself in different forms, depending on a plant’s industry sector and current state of lubrication. Several “conditional” strategies can help your site gear up for this move with little effort and expense.

Implementing conditional strategies

Two basic elements underpin a condition-based lubrication program. The first speaks to the integrated, proactive-maintenance approach through involvement of operators as the primary “eyes and ears” in performing daily machine condition checks. The second element assures consistency and accuracy in the execution of value-based condition checks and lubrication actions.

Some maintenance personnel might argue that the old PM job tasks stating “Fill reservoir as necessary” or “Lubricate as necessary” are perfect condition-based instructions. Not so fast: Those instructions, unfortunately, rely solely on maintainer experience. They will not deliver consistency and accuracy without controls that dictate how we assess a machine’s condition and take appropriate actions built into the “necessary” part of the work-task equation. That’s where implementation of the following conditional strategies pays off.

Strategy 1: Reservoir-fill condition

If a lubrication system is to deliver peak performance, it will require an engineered amount of lubricant. In re-circulating and total-loss systems alike, designated minimum and maximum fill amounts aren’t always clearly indicated on the reservoirs. In such cases, the first step is to ensure that a viewable sight gauge is in use, complete with hi-lo markers for manual checks.

For critical equipment, an advanced approach can utilize a programmable level control to electronically indicate the fill state to operators and maintenance personnel. Some equipment, of course, is designed with reservoirs inside the operating envelope that require machine shutdown to perform checks or fill up. These systems can be inexpensively redesigned with remote “quick-connect” fill-lines piped to the machine perimeter that will allow the reservoirs to be filled to correct levels while the machine runs. (For additional tips, see this article’s “Learn More” box at the bottom of this article.)

Strategy 2: Oil condition

When the term “condition-based” is used, oil analysis often comes to mind. The first stage in controlling the oil’s condition is to ensure the product is put in the reservoir at the correct service-level of cleanliness and that a contamination-control program is in place. This will require a number of things: an effective oil-receiving and -distribution strategy, operators and maintainers working together to keep the lubrication system clean, use of desiccant-style breathers, and remote, “quick connect” fill ports that can be hooked up to filter carts outside of a machine’s operating envelope. (For additional tips, see the “Learn More” box at the bottom of this article.)

The second stage is to monitor the oil’s condition for contamination, oxidation, and additive depletion through the use of oil analysis. Extracting oil samples for testing purposes is predominantly a manual process that can be conducted outside of a machine’s operating envelope through a remote-piped “live” re-circulating line or by using a remote-piped sight-level gauge with a built-in extraction port.

Based on a condition report, the machine’s oil can be cleaned by using a filter cart, with no downtime, or replaced at a conveniently scheduled time. An advanced alternative is to use an inline sensor to monitor and electronically indicate pre-set oil cleanliness and water-presence alarm levels. (For additional tips, see the “Learn More” box at the bottom of this article.)

Oil-temperature condition is important wherever ambient temperatures fluctuate and an oil might become too viscous to be pumped through a system. This situation can create a bearing-starvation effect. In environments where this could happen, a thermostat-controlled automotive block heater or battery blanket heater can be incorporated in the system to ensure lubricant usability and machine uptime.

Strategy 3: Machine condition

The ultimate lubrication-control is based on equipment running condition. Effectively lubricated machinery will require less power to operate and bearing life will be extended by as much as three times that of ineffectively lubricated machines. Correctly engineered and set up, automated, centralized lubrication-delivery systems ensure the right amount of lubricant is applied in the right place, at the right time. If your plant’s equipment is predominantly manually lubricated, investigate converting to automated systems that require less maintenance and return their investment in weeks or months. (For additional tips, see the “Learn More” box at the bottom of this article.)

Automated systems are highly adaptable to new IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) protocols. The capability now exists to install bearing-heat sensors (that set temperature ranges of different bearings) for monitoring, amperage metering (needed because friction demands an increase in motive power that translates through amperage draw), and sensing of oil levels and cleanliness.

Condition signals can be sent to an automated system’s lubricator to turn on and off for a timed or actuation cycle, or to indicate an alarm state. These conditions can be monitored with software tools and used for computer-based automated decision making to reset a lubricator program based solely (and precisely) on condition needs of a machine within its ambient operating environment.

Remember this

Condition-based lubrication respects and treats the oils that a site relies on as integrated assets in equipment and process uptime. The condition-based approach is an excellent first step for a site that wants to shift its focus from legacy PM approaches to integrated, proactive-maintenance strategies. Regardless of industry sector, this type of maintenance is what plants of today and tomorrow require to be competitive. MT

Condition-based lubrication and system design are among the topics covered in contributing editor Ken Bannister’s 2016 book, Practical Lubrication for Industrial Facilities–3rd edition (Fairmont Press, Lilburn, GA), co-written with Heinz Bloch. Contact Bannister at, or 519-469-9173.

learnmore2“All Sight-Level Gauges Aren’t Created Equal”

“Control and Avoid Lubricant Contamination”

“Put Portable Filter Carts to Work”

“Implement an Oil-Analysis Program”

“Practical Oil Analysis: Why and What For?”

“Tune Your Lubrication-Delivery System”